Title: At the Ragged Edge/This Is Your
Summary: Mulder and Scully visit Faerie, where they find that things are not always peachy and nice, and no one has wings or grants wishes. Mulder saves Scully from a fate worse than death. Lots of blood and cool people, too.
Cast Disclaimer--The characters of Skinner, Mulder and Scully are owned by Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen productions and are used without permission. Tirorvan, Blaise, Miorunach, and other minor characters are out of my wicked imagination. This story is not about David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson, (I imagine both DD and GA espouse the Cure song which says, "Please stop loving me/I am none of these things,") but about some fictional characters whose fictional lives I am mucking around in.
One: At the Ragged Edge
At the ragged edge of the silence In the calm that only comes with the violent Sleep Inside the heart and the hope of redemption -October Project
It crouches outside the hotel room, sniffing delicately the air of pollution, exhaust, human habitation. Fingers like slender wires, curled. Silver, savage eyes. It hates being among the things of humans, but it cannot disobey its orders.
It has been told explicitly what to do. Scare them, and if that didn't work, take them. They must not be allowed to interfere with the celebration. And of course the hunt.
The hunt. The creature crouched on the window ledge makes an inarticulate sound of longing and bloodlust. A mouth that is not in the right place rasps polluted air. Sores ooze, broken bones grate, the air of nightmare clings to the thin form. Slender hands clench and unclench. It is past time.
It slips into the room, to where the woman is sleeping, where one slender leg pokes out of the cheap bedspread. It touches her forehead with slender fingers like cords, and she moans. It is a sound painful to hear. It strokes her forehead like a lover. The fingers should leave brands, but don't. There is no mark where the tracks of the fingers caress, but the moaning gets louder.
It slides out of the room, through the window. There is no sign of its passing, except for the woman in the bed, who is thrashing now.
It is a particularly terrible dream.
Smoke fills the room and she is tied again to the silver rack and this time it is her poor dead sister, dear Melissa, who applies the small drill to her abdomen this time it is her poor dead father who leans over her with a needle and a light.
Open up, Scully. Open up. And her mother, holding her hand, breaking the fingers one by one.
Dana. Dana. Everything will be fine, you'll see girl won't it girl won't it? She tries to speak but her mouth is filled with the needle, slipping down her throat like a particularly vile sort of snake and she cannot move her hands and they crowd around her while her fingers are broken one by one.
Everything will be fine won't it girl won't it? You'll see.
And the silver-eyed monster over all.
Fox Mulder is woken out of a sound sleep at 5:24 in the morning by his partner's screams. He grabs his gun and takes a moment to pull on his t-shirt. _No sense in scaring her more,_ he thinks wryly. The connecting door to her room has been left unlocked, for these kinds of emergencies. He would never think of using it for anything else. Well, maybe he would, but that thought would never resolve itself. _I'm not stupid enough to jeopardize my friendship. Really._ He traipses over to the connector, wondering what in the world could make a normally calm Scully howl like a trapped wolf. He is a little apprehensive, because a screaming Scully is a Scully without control, and Scully without control is a terrifying thought.
Scully is still screaming, her voice getting scratchy but still audible. He shoves the door open and does the jump inside that he can't help but think of as the "Good-cop Jump." One step, gun forward, elbows locked but loose, sweep the room. There is no one else in the room but his partner. She thrashes in the midddle of the bed, jerking her arms against her chest and throwing them out again, trying to push away a terrible dream. He notices her plaid pyjamas with a grin and then goes over to her. He puts the gun on the bedside table, and sits on the edge of the bed.
"Hey, girl. Hey, Dana. Hey, wake up, Scully."
She does not and he gets alarmed. He touches her face, hesitantly. Her skin is flushed but smooth and soft. He becomes bolder, stroking her cheek and then shaking her shoulder, gently.
"Hey, Scully! Wake up!"
And she does, so suddenly that it takes him aback. Wild, terrified blue eyes flash open instantly. The eyes of a cornered badger, he thinks before she uncoils gracefully and with one movement knocks him to the floor, her thumbs unerringly finding his windpipe.
He is stunned. His head has hit the floor hard, and he sees stars, while his air supply is dwindling astonishingly. He tries to move his arms but he can't even think of how to make them move. Just as he is sliding into blackout territory, he feels her let up her thumbs and he can breathe again. She is staring at him, wide-eyed and panting, and he chokes, gasping for breath. When he can finally speak again, he does so in a croak.
"Hey, Scully. Hell of a...way to say...good morning."
He makes an abortive movement to get up, and she finally notices that she is sitting on his chest. She rolls her weight off, and sits up shakily. Looking at her hands.
"Mulder...it was the worst nightmare. I was back in the abduction room, back on the framework that they held me on for testing...."her voice trails off and she looks confused. "Now I can't remember. It had to do with my family, and my sister, but I can't think of the rest of it."
He smiles tentatively. "If I get up, you won't try to kill me again?"
She says, "I am so sorry, Mulder, I don't even know what got into me." He sees the barrier slam back over her eyes, and knows she won't talk about this ever again, unless prompted unless pushed. He sighs, inwardly, and stumbles back to his room. It will not do to be too close to her with only his underwear on. It wouldn't be proper, and one thing Fox Mulder tries very hard to be is proper. With a name like Fox, who could really be proper? But he does try.
The only place he cannot succeed is in his dreams.
Dana cannot understand why she would have had such a horrible reaction, knocking poor Mulder down on the ground when he was only trying to save her life or some other such heroic aim. _Why is it always Mulder who gets the brunt of my attacks?_ In fact, she knows why -- he is the only person close to her on such a day-to-day basis. She wonders what it was that she dreamed...it seems very important but all she can remember is the face of her sister. And a shadow hanging over her face, as she was levered backwards on the silver frame and the. . . .
Suddenly she remembers it all again and it makes her cringe. She hates thinking about the abduction, those lost months in her life, _hates_ it. She hates her subconscious, too, for pairing Melissa up with the abduction, the thing she loves most with the thing she hates the most. She carefully slams the drawer on her dream and locks it with several keys. Things that disorder her life are usually locked up in there. She is never going to tell Mulder what she dreamed, and never going to think about it. It is a defense mechanism. To have something missing like the abduction time, to have something like that dream running around in her neat and carefully slotted life is to have a time bomb ticking inside of her.
And sometime, it will go off.
Their current assignment takes place in the unlikely place of Wolcott, Connecticut, and they are there because demons have invaded the town.
"Buying up real estate?" Fox had asked with wry humor when he was given the assignment. It had been four days before Hallowe'en, and he had been sure that it was some sort of prank concocted by the local high school, who, like most other high school kids, always seemed to have too much on their collective hands.
"No," Skinner had responded, shooting the _Gimme some R-E-S-P-E-C-T_ look. "They claim that there are real demons running around. Four fingers, slanty eyes, some with horns, some without. There have been fifteen varied sightings around the area."
Scully, characteristically, had looked very calm and very skeptical. But her demeanor could not sway Skinner, and they had gotten on a plane one day later. Routine, routine. Routine. Mulder had sifted quickly through the composites given him in the file. "Check this out, Scully. It's Mephistopheles!" Scully had not looked amused. She had not known what to make of it, though. Mulder had asked her specifically if the pictures reminded her of something.
She had answered with a shrug, "White Wolf player's guide covers?"
They had certainly reminded Mulder of something...but he just couldn't remember. Now, in the car, he stares at them again. What? Something more like Tolkein than White Wolf, that was for sure. Mark Rhein-Hagen uses lean, elegant characters. Tolkein and some of his more recent fantasy contemporaries prefer the extremes: either beautiful or ugly. Except for the hobbits; they are the mediocrity that bind the two together. In fact....
"We're here," says Scully. "Snap out of it."
"Here" is the Wolcott Police Department, and a very small one it is, at that. The town of Wolcott can barely be called a town.
The biggest collection of buildings is the town square, and houses surrounded with beautiful lawns lead away down the winding roads until the township stretches out for miles and miles with very few actual inhabitants. Very New England, reflects Mulder.
And so is the police chief. Big man, big handshake. His name is Bill Tate, and he has the same ideas as Mulder.
"I bet it's the high school kids. It's so close to Hallowe'en that they are getting restless. But usually it isn't bad. The principal's car gets egged or something. Nothing this organized, and nothing this big. I just don't understand it."
"Could we have an address for one of the bigwigs at school? Maybe I could put the fear of God into him." Mulder's grin is feral, and for a minute Bill Tate's hand clenches into a fist. _Damned FBI. Why do they have to send the spooks out after me._ Mulder sees the fist and his face tightens.
Scully watches him closely. _Don't pull anything stupid._
"I don't want him harmed. These kids are just kids."
"Don't worry," says Mulder, and he has the gall to look innocent. He is given the address, of course. That is what the badge is for, at any rate.
It doesn't work. The tall, dark haired, somewhat good looking boy, Brian, is sullen but cooperative. No, they have not been scaring the townspeople with demon impressions. No, he does not recognize any of the sketches. His parents vouch for him, giving iron alibis for many of the sightings. No. No, no, no.
It seems that Brian already has the fear of God, and it is healthy and thriving. Mulder is weary and frustrated. His pet theory has come to naught, and they must stay in this place, this town where he gets lost on the roads. He lets Scully drive, and she navigates like she was born here.
He has told the police chief to call his cellphone if there are any more sightings. Now all he wants is time to think. He really doesn't understand this -- there are no killings and nothing really malevolent, only sightings. So, time to think about the future would be welcome. He expects Scully to pull into the hotel parking lot, but instead she makes a noncommittal noise in her throat and pulls into a tiny Chinese place. Mulder stares at her.
"How in the world did you know this was here?"
"The policeman told me about it while you were stalking around muttering," she responds with a smile. They go inside, wooden doors swinging slowly closed behind them.
Trapped in a warm room twined with dragons and other Chinese symbols. Live lobsters crawl happily around in a glass tank. Scully obtains a table and seats herself, smiling sweetly and patting the table. Come on, Mulder. Sit down. She glances at her hands and a slight frown crosses her face. Her dream is vague but present.
They eat all kinds of things. Mulder is not picky and lets Scully order. Scully likes variety and soon sweet and sour pork, beef, egg foo young, fried rice, roasted duck, and some unidentified fish cover the table. Scully digs in and Mulder has only time to wonder where she puts it all before she is asking him if he is going to finish that. The fortune cookies come, and Mulder breaks his open to find the piece of paper. Scully's is sticking out and she pulls it out, intending to eat the cookie whole. As she pops it in her mouth and begins to chew, an almost comical look of surprise comes over her face. She opens her mouth, holding her fingers out towards Mulder, and blood gushes from between her lips. He is over to her in a moment, prying open her mouth.
A piece of glass has stuck in the roof of her mouth. He pries it out, cutting his own fingers in the process. He thanks the FBI silently for the rigorous blood tests that reassure them both that no one will get AIDS. He almost tells Scully, but decides that this is not the time to be flip. Her breath bubbles now, sobbing in and out as she tries to breathe and swallow blood at the same time. He grabs a napkin and applies pressure, putting her hand to the rapidly soaking napkin.
"Hold that there."
And he slinks off in search of the kitchen. Gun at hip. But he wouldn't think of using it oh no even though he would love to hit the bastard that made Scully bleed hit till he made the bastard bleed from every pore _how do you like that how do you like that huh?_
They know nothing, of course. The cook is almost in tears at the disaster that he caused. "I did not put glass in her fortune cookie!" he says, stubbornly. Mulder can get nowhere, and soon gives up, even though he is very suspicious and very angry. He goes back out to Scully, who has regained her doctor's composure.
"My, hhat wah a wot a bwood, wahnt it?" Her voice is muffled by the fingers she has in her mouth. Mulder smiles at her, making light of something like almost swallowing glass. "That was a lot of blood, Scully. Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"No, I don whink wo. I would wike some sweep hhough."
Sleep. She wants sleep. Get her sleep, then -- whatever she wants, as long as I don't have to watch her bleed again.
Mulder drives back to the hotel, with her giving muffled directions. At her door, he insists on seeing the roof of her mouth and she obliges as best she can, submitting like a daughter to her father's preserving instinct, even producing a small flashlight when he mutters about lack of light.
His fingers brush her soft-rough lower lip as he pries her mouth open. Something takes hold of him that he stamps down with feet of iron. Her mouth looks reasonably okay, the cut closing up nicely, and he cautions her not to eat anything rough for awhile. She smiles dutifully at him and retreats.
He stomps into his own room and strips back down to his boxers. It is a very warm October or the manager has left the heat up on high. His flushed skin has nothing to do with that velvet underlip. Nothing. From his coat pocket, he retrieves a medium-sized something and turns it in his fingers.
He looks at the piece of glass that has so recently been covered in Scully's blood. It should be -- should be -- yes, it is right here. He can dimly see the rune carved into the glass. No one can resist leaving their calling card, he muses, and resolves to send the glass down to Frohike and the boys tomorrow. If they couldn't find out what the rune meant, no one could. Odd that it should be a rune, though, he muses, crawling under the covers. It doesn't look Oriental -- their pictograms are fluid and beautiful - this one is ugly and odd, looking like it was scratched in with a rusty nail or some other clumsy implement. He tries to think of what gangs or organizations use runes, and he is nine-tenths asleep when he feels a brush on his forehead. Light, cold fingers caressing his face. He smiles, his eyes already racing back and forth under their lids. It will be a good dream, he thinks.
But he is wrong.
She leans over him, smiling. Her hand has taken his. She wears plaid pyjamas and her feet are bare. Her eyes bore into his as she bends over to capture his lips with hers. Her silver eyes. As he feels her mouth touch his, he also hears a snap in the vicinity of his hand. He looks around, surprised, to see her pulling off his fingers. One by one by one. There is no pain, only a deep revulsion. She stands up with his fingers grasped in her hand like bloody pieces of chalk, and sticks one in her mouth like a cigar.
She takes a gold lighter from her pyjama tops and lights up the finger. Like such things happen in dreams, it blazes nicely. He can smell burning flesh.
"You like that, boy?" Scully says with a laugh. She reaches for his other hand. "Have we reached the limits of your imagination? Guess where I'm going when I'm done with your fingers?" She leans back into him and smiles around her finger-cigar.
"It'll burn really fine, Mulder. How will you like being a girl, I wonder?" She dances around the room, crudely, bumping and grinding to a tuneless song that she growls around her cigar. Mulder sits up, trying to find his gun, to shoot Scully to shoot her down cold and dead, and she bursts into flame and he lifts up his hand to reach out to her. But he has no hands, and she touches his forehead with her four fingers and the smell of flesh is closer. Much closer.
He panics when he awakens, simply because he is coughing out smoke. The room is on fire. He is on fire -- his shirt is burning. Frightened, terrified of fire, knowing what fire can do, he rolls off the bed and grovels in the carpet. After putting out the fire, he crawls under the smoke towards his things. Toward his gun. There is safety in weaponry. The gun is warm to the touch, and he grabs his badge, gun, and the piece of glass which he has wrapped in toilet paper and pulls open the window, crawling out, coughing. The grass is cold beneath his feet, and no crickets singing.
Once again he meets Scully at night in his underwear, but this time it is outside, on the lawn. The hotel flames beautifully, and when the roof collapses, he wonders what in the world he is going to wear. Scully seems much more prepared, wearing some old jeans and a revolting yellow sweatshirt that says "SPAM" in large navy-blue letters on the front. She is even wearing shoes. The disgusted Mulder looks daggers at her and she shrugs half apologetically.
"I was going to take a walk. I couldn't sleep. I'm sorry . . . ." and she trails off into half-giggles. "You look very silly. Did you singe off your chest hair?"
He will never be proper, it seems. "Ha, ha, very funny -- I don't have that much to singe off. I'm going to sleep in the car. I refuse to be seen like this.... you can settle with the manager." He is not a prude, but the thought of facing the emaciated hotel manager in his boxers, not to mention any of his motel neighbors, makes him shudder inwardly. Scully has nabbed her purse, and she gives him the keys and wanders off, giggling still.
The night gets cold and colder still. Scully climbs into the car with him, takes pity on his poor shivering form, and gives him her sweatshirt. She is wearing a pyjama shirt underneath. Plaid. He is stuck with "SPAM," and manages to fall asleep for minutes at a time. He dares not leave the heater on while he is asleep and he can't sleep when he is this cold, so he ends up staying awake with the heater on, and bugging Scully. "Scully?"
"Did you remember anything more about your dream?"
The barrier is in her voice. Nothing personal, but.... "Not really. Why?"
He tells her about his dream, leaving out nothing at all.
"I was kissing you? Really?" Her voice is muffled.
"And pulling off my fingers, don't forget." A small attempt at levity. The dream has started to fade, and he feels satisfied that he has told Scully everything he remembers. "Scully?"
"When Bugs Bunny dresses up like a girl, do you find him attractive?"
She laughs. "Mulder, you have seen too many movies. Try to get some sleep, won't you? I don't think I can keep my eyes open much longer."
She looks over at him. His hair is pulled up into funny twists, and he is all over goosebumps. She resolves to get him some clothes as soon as possible. It is five in the morning now, and she can see the delicate shadows under his eyes.
I kissed you? Really?
She closes her eyes.
They are awakened by Scully's phone. Insistent ringing. There are prints from the seat upholstery on her cheek. She answers groggily. It is 8:32 and they have slept almost three hours.
"Scully....what? Do you have him in cus -- it? What do you mean, "it"? Well, who sent in the alert?" She laughs suddenly. "All right. Give me the address and we'll be over in, what do you say around here? Two shakes of a lamb's tail? Well, maybe two and a half."
She says her goodbyes. Mulder waits, frenziedly impatient.
"What did he say?"
She laughs again. "It seems that the Neighborhood Watch is more alert than the FBI. They have caught one of their demons and have it imprisoned in Ken Farnsworth's tool shed. They say it's screeching like a hyena in heat. We have to get over there," her gaze sharpens, "we have to get you some clothes. And your chest is blistering. Good thing you didn't sleep on your stomach. We'll get something for that as well. Then it's onward to Ken Farnsworth's tool shed, where we will soon be forced to humiliate ourselves and admit that the FBI was less alert than the Neighborhood Watch." Mulder groans tiredly. "This is worse than a five-night stakeout."
She grins. "Indeed. Now haul over and let me drive." At the drugstore she buys a clean t-shirt and a tube of antiseptic cream. She insists on smearing it liberally on him, wearing her "Doctor Scully" look while she does it. His chest is indeed raising in welts and the cream hurts him, even though she tries to be gentle. She then makes him put the t-shirt on and they visit the nearest available clothing store. She comes out with some jeans and a plaid shirt, green and black plaid, and some tube socks and running shoes. Mulder grimaces. He doesn't like plaid very much (except on Scully, shut up, shut up) -- his style is more the pinstripe.
He wriggles into the jeans while an amused Scully leans against the hood of the car, ostentatiously looking the other way. It hurts to put on the shirt, but he manages with a little trouble and then slumps back down into his seat. Scully casts a worried look at him. "Are you sure you don't want to go back to bed? I can investigate whatever is going down over there."
He looks at her, and she shrugs and gets back into the car.
Ken Farnsworth lives in a little house with a big yard, off of a side street called Blansfield Lane. The toolshed is in the corner, and Scully and Mulder stare at each other in disbelief, amazed at the volume of the howls that are coming from the small structure. A man attired very similarly to Mulder walks over to them and extends his hand.
"Hello, ma'am, I'm Ken Farnsworth." Scully shakes his hand as he stares narrowly at Mulder. "Who're you?"
"Special Agent Mulder of the FBI," answers Mulder wearily.
Scully nods at Farnsworth, who leads them over to the shed, muttering about how some FBI agents can't quite pull off a plaid look. Then he looks over at Scully. "We tied it up. It was running through Bill Pullman's yard, just a-wailing like the hounds of hell were after it, excuse me, ma'am. And it hasn't stopped since we stuck it in there. We'd appreciate it kindly if you'd take it away from here."
"We'll do what needs to be done," says Scully. All business. She shoulders Farnsworth aside and ducks into the shed. Immediately her voice filters back.
"Mulder. Come look at _this._"
It walks beside them, staring at them, mutely appealing. It had stopped wailing the moment Scully entered the shed, and now that they have it quiet, it seems even more non- threatening, just a child. It is certainly small like a child, and its face is unlined.
But it cannot be a child. It is not a human.
Scully stares, mesmerized. It _could,_ almost _could_ be human, but something is wrong with it. Besides the four fingers and the small goat's horns poking up from its forehead. The too-white skin. Those things were perceptible, could be seen. Something else prevents it from being human, and she cannot make it out. The doctor in her is saying coldly, _I wish we could kill it so we could cut it up._ They had hustled it out, past Farnsworth's self-promoting comments, and had begun walking down Blansfield Lane, past the school at the end of the road. Now it stares at them, and they don't know where to start. It --he-- speaks, suddenly, in a husky voice completely unlike the screeching one it had used to wake all the people up and down Blansfield Lane. And he says, "You must let me go."
The accent is all wrong, like this thing had learned English by reading and had never spoken it to anyone. "You must let me go, for I must warn my fellows."
Mulder leans closer, intent. Hands absently rubbing chest, where blisters are oozing even now. "What fellows."
He looks up at them, blond spiky hair, guileless as a child. Old, wise eyes. Perfectly guileless, yet Scully does not believe in perfect guilelessness.
"My fellows? Why, the Sidhe. The Seelie Sidhe."
Mulder gives a big fat grin and stops walking. They are standing in a park, with a baseball field to one side, surrounded by trees. Late morning sunshine illuminates the river that flows crazily around the field. "The who?"
Scully gives him a look. "Did you miss out on your fairy tales as a child? The Sidhe. The little people. The fairies." He cannot tell if she is serious or not.
"Oh, _those_ Sidhe. Of course. The American strain. Aren't you supposed to have an Irish accent or something?"
He is droll, but suddenly serious. He leans forward again. "Why do you have to warn your fellows."
The so-called Sidhe looks at him. _Humans._ "Why should we have an Irish accent? This is Connecticut." It pauses, looking confused, like that isn't really what it meant to say. "The Unseelie Court is planning to hunt my fellows down this year at Samhain. We are considered," and it ponders, searching for a word, "traitors, yes, to the Unseelie Court. Please let me go, or they will all die most horribly."
"Samhain," Scully forestalls her partner, "is the ancient Celtic holiday eventually transmutated into All Hallows Eve, which in turn developed into Hallowe'en."
"Thank you, Scully. Now," he addresses it directly, "what is your name and who are you really. None of this bull about fairies. I know what fairies are, and the American kind mostly hang out on Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco. What do you want? What. Do. You. Want?" His voice is tight with anger. Scully knows he thinks he is being put on. But Tirorvan answers with perfect equanamity.
"My name is Tirorvan, and I am of the Seelie Sidhe. My clan name is unimportant, but I am kin to many. Your name is Fox. A good name." Mulder growls, angrier by the second. _Don't,_ he had warned Scully, _call me Fox._ Tirorvan continues. "We are not fairies, in the sense that you think of fairies. And we are not, not," he searches again, "ah! Gay. In that sense. But I tell you, the danger to my folk is real. In past times we have rebelled against the Court of the Unseelie, and now we will be made to pay unless I can get my fellows out of harm's way. The Unseelie King is very angry, and he will release the bogans and wights and the Wild Hunt will ride. We need to stop the King from influencing Herne to ride against us. We need to give him another direction. We only have until tomorrow's moonrise. Please. Please let me go."
Tirorvan's unlined face is pleading.
"I doubt it most sincerely. We can't let you go until we have questioned you properly and all things considered, and DNA sampling -- if you'll agree -- and pictures, oh, lots of pictures and then we'll figure out whether you're playing at Masquerade or not." Mulder is looking tense and excited at the same time. _What if this thing is real?_ He is poised on the balls of his feet, leaning forward in his excitement. Dana almost thinks he is angry, and steps forward to stop him from whatever he may be thinking of doing.
And they are in the park and out of the river rises something large and terrifying. Fog rolls from its body, and it makes an inarticulate growling noise. Tirorvan keens, in terror, and Scully steps forward to put her hand on his arm. "Don't worry, we'll take care of you." She is having a lot of trouble believing in this Faerie stuff, _but maybe being Irish helps credibility a little._ And seeing that thing coming out of the river. It is not a geek, or an alligator, or a leech-mutant, or, Heaven forbid, even Jaws. How can you help but believe what is in front of your eyes? Yet, she does not want to believe, but can't look away from the emerging thing, something Unseelie for sure, if you could believe this stuff.
"You are out of your jurisdiction, FBI agents," comes the gravelly reply, not from Tirorvan, but from the thing rising out of the river. It pronounces the word as "yurisdeection." It is a tall thing, with long exaggerated fingers. Silver eyes, cold, cold eyes. "Ah, Lady," gasps Tirorvan, and he is not speaking to Scully, "have mercy."
Its laugh is sort of cold and bubbly, like old lettuce. "There is no mercy for you, Tirorvan. You have been out of your hole for too long, rabbit, and there will be no escape. You see, I grow already, for Samhain approaches quickly, and I grow ready for blood. Your blood."
Scully pulls out her gun and points it towards the still - advancing creature. No use in passive resistance. "Why don't you just stop right there?" she asks politely. Unmoved, it points its long, slender, wire-like fingers at her, and she drops the gun, gasping, staring at her hands. "Momma? Melissa --" She falls to the ground holding her head. Screaming.
She is back with her sister and her father, and they are coming towards her with drills, now, big ones.
"By our King," comes the gravelly, amused voice, "you humans do grovel nicely!" It turns to Tirorvan. "See what happens when you consort with humans, Seelie? You grow weak and soft like them, and your dreams can be manipulated as easily as breathing."
Mulder tries to run to Scully, how can she scream like that and not have her head split open, but he cannot move, and it seems as if his head is full of rocks. Scully seems to fade to minimal importance, like a noise from another world. Then something knocks him over. He falls to his hands, panting. Tirorvan is staring at him, perplexedly -- but it is not Tirorvan, it is someone who looks like him. He sees that Tirorvan is over by the monster, shouting at it in words Mulder understands only vaguely. Heavily accented English, now. No pretense.
"You are not strong enough yet to face us! Go cower home to your master! Leave us alone! Get! You! Gone! Flee from the skin of this world!" As Tirorvan throws his hand up in a complicated gesture, the thing seems to shrink, and howls. It growls, "I was sent to kill them, and kill them Iwill. One way or another." It stoops and grabs a limp figure, and reaches for Mulder, but cannot reach him, for Tirorvan has thrown his arm out again in a commanding yet strangely despairing gesture.
"Get you off the skin of this world! Flee and tell the Unseelie Bastard King that his people are no match for the powers of the light! Go!"
A flash of auburn hair, a glint of silver eye, and the thing is gone.
Mulder remains. He is now the only human in a clearing that has seemingly stuffed itself, gorged itself with Tirorvans of all shapes and sizes. He thinks despairingly of a red-haired woman he used to know, and stumbles a step, losing consciousness in a moment. As he falls, he hears Tirorvan, ". . . bargain with Herne. . . ." and he is gone.
She awakens on the stone-covered ground. Her head is splitting. What is her name? She can't remember if she's ever had a name. She is in a hall of some sort, with quatripartite vaulting, she can't help but notice with the back of her mind that it is some sort of twisted Late Gothic. It's a reflex, comes from noticing little things, she has to notice little things cause she's a --
Well, what is she, anyway? She can't remember, doesn't even want to. She sits up and there, reclining on a large chair in front of her, is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
He is not human, and his inhumanity gives him an alien beauty. He is tall, and slender, and his eyes are amber with brown flecks. His mouth is finely shaped, and has a cruel twist, a beautiful cruel evil twist. He is wearing old-style clothing, a doublet and hose with slashed sleeves and a long, green cloak. A belt of teeth encircles his waist and a human head grins from a pole on the side of the chair.
Words suddenly seem unimportant and she cannot, cannot and will not stop looking at this divine creature that has her mouth dry and her mind wishing that he would say something to her, command her, for she is his, of course his, all his to command.
Something in her mind says warningly, _Da--_ but is cut off, because she has no name now. She is only an extension of _him_.
And now he rises. Her spellbound eyes watch the white fall of his hair, the graceful way his knees bend, his wrists. He beckons to her and she stands, stumbles, staggers to him. Adoring. There is nothing she won't do for him. He says, in a gentle and melodic voice, "Hello. What a pretty little plaything you are, then. My name is Miorunach." He pronounces the name as "Meerunach," with the "ch" given the germanic pronunciation (as in Bach). "Now, dear, tell me your name, what you are doing here and who you have told about what you know."
And suddenly, words are the most important thing in the world.
Mulder is shaken awake by an anguished Tirorvan. "I cannot leave him!" he is saying to a group of other things clustered around him. "It is my fault that he is hurt and his woman is taken. Can you understand me, Mulder? Wake up, Mulder!"
"I understand," he says. His head feels like those huge stone heads on Easter Island, a mile wide and fifty tons. "I'm getting up, just stop shaking me."
Taken his woman? Who is his woman? And his mind jumps straight to Scully, limp in the arms of something large and very ugly. He grabs Tirorvan.
"What happened to Scully! Where's Scully! What was that thing! I have to go and find it and bring Scully back!"
"Hush," says the Sidhe. "I don't know if your woman is alive. If she is, you can be sure that something even less pleasant is happening to her. The bogan probably carried her straight to Miorunach--"
"Who?" interrupts Mulder. Whoever this Meerunach guy is, he isn't going to last long against a very angry, almost hung-over Fox Mulder.
"Miorunach. The King of the Unseelie Sidhe. The one who wants to murder all of us."
"Now can I finish? She is probably being brought to him as we speak, and he will either give her to Herne, or use her to trap you. Out of those alternatives," and he shudders, "I would pick death for her, myself. But obviously, you don't. Fox, you will have to come to Samhain with us to make a stand against the Unseelie Court. Sometimes, humans are very beneficial to us, and the Court hasn't realized that. We have to change with the times, and humans are part of the change. We will make a bargain. If you will stand with us against the Court, and assuming we get out of that alive, we will help you get your woman back. Is that a bargain, then?"
"She's not my woman."
"Yes." His voice roughens. "I will stand with you against the Unseelie Court --" it sounded so stupid, saying that, but how could he disbelieve anymore? " and you will help me rescue Scully."
"It must be sealed in blood," says one of the Sidhe standing nearby. "Or we will have no bargain with the humans. It stinks of bogan dreams, and I do not trust it."
"Yes, yes," replies Tirorvan, and produces a knife. Mulder stares, disbelieving for some reason.
"Steel? I thought you couldn't stand iron."
"Those of us who have interacted in the human world can stand steel or any other alloy, but not straight iron. The Unseelie, now, there's another story. They will run if they can from anything even remotely iron-related. That's one of our advantages. But bogans can be taught to work around it." He makes a quick cut on the palm of his hand, not deep, but bleeding well.
Mulder has no choice but to hold out his hand.
The cut doesn't really hurt and the two are clasping hands before he can even grunt in reaction. Tirorvan intones, "The blood is mingled, the bargain is struck. Let the two heal each other." He lets go of Mulder's hand and gestures. "Look."
A thin scar runs across Mulder's palm. "The sign of our bargain," says the other Sidhe. "Break it on pain of your destruction."
No worries,_ thinks Mulder. Nothing could make him try to get out of this one.
Later, he shows Tirorvan the piece of glass he has been hoarding. Tirorvan will not touch it, saying that it stinks of bogans. But he studies the rune closely, and then tells Mulder that it is the King's seal. "He wants you two dead. That was a warning of sorts. So were the dreams."
"Ah," says Mulder in dawning comprehension. "The bogan triggered the dream it had planted in Scully to make her fall down like that." "And yours, you know. It paralyzed you with your own psyche. It is the bogan's way. It works with dreams-- it is very dangerous. We will probably have to face them, too, in this fight. But we can do nothing until Samhain, when the Unseelie Court gathers to meet Herne. Would you like to go back to your own room or come and spend the next day with us in Faerie?"
Mulder looks at himself, and remembers that his own room is probably being hosed down by the fire department.
"I'll go with you."
"Then watch. And do not cry out, for you may surprise something that is best left undisturbed. The borders of Faerie are a dangerous place. Please make no noise."
Mulder smiles and mimes 'zipping' across his mouth. Tirorvan smiles back.
And the world flips on its side.
There is grass on the ground, but he cannot see the sky. This quiet, fog-covered world, then, is the border to Faerie. Mulder had never really thought about it, but he supposed he was thinking more along the lines of border crossings he had seen; stone-faced guards checking passports, or something. But it is not so much a border as a misty plain. The fog leads off as far as he can see, and the Sidhe tiptoe quietly through the mist. Tirorvan has Mulder by the wrist, and is leading him as quietly as the human can go. Mulder is amazed at how quietly the Sidhe can move -- they are wraith-like, and Mulder wonders if Tirorvan would ever have been caught by Ken Farnsworth if he had not been howling at the top of his lungs.
From ahead, another Sidhe makes a sharp gesture, and Tirorvan tugs on Mulder's wrist to stop him. The Sidhe are conversing together, using hand gestures.
Tirorvan nods, and pulls Mulder's ear to his mouth. "When I slap the back of your hand, you run like the Fiend of the Fells was after you. But run after me! And don't deviate from my path, for if you get lost in the borders of Faerie, you will be lost forever."
_At least until something unpleasant happens to me,_ thinks Mulder. He can imagine some pretty gruesome things happening here, in the impenetrable fog. _This place must be where the X-files come from._ They are sliding silently between fogbanks, and Tirorvan jerks Mulder's wrist. Mulder looks down at him, and then stares ahead. Something impossibly huge is rising out of the fog, something that seems to have no end in sight. Mulder is grateful for his running shoes, because the huge creature is also moving. Fast.
Tirorvan slaps Mulder on the back of his hand. The sting wakes up his adrenaline, and he sees the Sidhe almost disappearing into the mist. He takes off running after the fleeing Faerie, thanking his lucky stars for all the exercising he did. _If Scully could see me now,_ but she couldn't. The huge mass is behind him, now, but he can imagine it, slipping up behind him, reaching out, and tearing his head from his poor mortal body. It isn't hard to keep running. He follows the Sidhe closely, twisting when they twist, and finally they burst from the fog and into the most beautiful place he has ever, ever seen.
They have arrived in Faerie.
Two: This Is Your Lullaby
All in green went my love riding on a great horse of gold into the silver dawn.
four lean hounds crouched low and smiling my heart fell dead before. -e.e. cummings
Once, when he was a boy, Mulder had decided that he was going to be a writer. He had devoured everything literary that he could, poetry and stories, from classics to horror fiction. He had also started writing poetry when he was fourteen or so. By the time he was sixteen he had taken a look at his passable verse, nothing special, and he had soon given it up as a bad job. But while he was still on that kick, he had dug into sixteenth and seventeenth- century Romantic English poetry. Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, stuff like that. He had read the whole of Tennyson's epic "The Princess" on his lunch breaks, safely hidden in his history teacher's classroom so that any kids who were, well, upset by his literary tendencies wouldn't be able to prey on him.
One poem that had interested him greatly was a Romantic look at a strange, exotic land. The story Mulder had read, fascinated, was that this poet, Coleridge, had gone off on an opium trip and had written this fantastic poem, and then had come down from his high and couldn't write the rest of the poem! It had seemed to the sixteen-year-old Mulder a great shame, for he had loved to imagine the place that Coleridge was talking about. His eidetic memory threw it back up to him now:
"And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. But O! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover!"
Now, standing in a great field watching clouds sail across the unpolluted sky, Mulder shakes his head. Coleridge, helpless beneath the sway of opium, must have stepped straight into Faerie. There is so much green that he is overwhelmed for a moment. No highways stretching black into the distance...his memory will have a field day with this. No telephone poles. The sky is clear and even the air is warm. Turning, Fox sees a barrier of fog behind him. That, then, is the border which he has just exited. Two thoughts come to him then. The first is that he has just called _himself_ Fox. but it seems right that he should be Fox here, just as he is Mulder back on Earth. The second thought goes like this: _If they don't show me a way out -- I can never leave._ But he is not sure he even wants to leave.
Tirorvan tugs on his arm. "Fox! Are you all right?"
Fox has a huge grin on his face. "Tirorvan? What was that huge moving thing that we passed on our way through the border?"
"I don't know," says the Sidhe, and cracks a small smile, "but it seemed best at the time that we didn't stop to find out."
They grin at each other. Fox feels like he is seven years old again. He falls on the ground and laughs as he never did when he was on Earth. It is that beautiful. The other Sidhe look on in fascination as he rolls around in the grass, yelling.
"Perhaps it is some sort of human ritual."
"A giving-thanks? Perhaps some kind of magic."
"Tirorvan! Is the human performing a magic? Is he betraying us?"
"I believe," says Tirorvan, "that he is only being joyful."
"Oh! How strange. Joy."
Mulder grins at all and sundry. This is the happiest that he has ever been. He wishes Scully were here to say, "Get up, Mulder. We're wasting time." and give him her dazzling smile.
And as suddenly as that, his happiness is gone.
They walk across a verdant meadow (that is the only way that Fox can think of it -- "verdant") and Tirorvan walks beside Fox as they follow the other Sidhe. Fox's sneakers scuff through grass and bluebells and liles-of-the-valley.
Small creatures jump away from him.
"This is Earth as it could have been," says Tirorvan.
Fox rolls his eyes. "Yah. Sure. Another ecology lecture. Look, I don't need a bleeding-heart elf pleading the cause of the debilitated rain forests, okay?"
"What is an elf?" Tirorvan asks, puzzled. Fox starts to try to explain, some mix of Tolkein and Andrew Lang, and gives up entirely. Tirorvan accepts it with good humor. "So the humans think that the Sidhe are some sort of magical being that either grants them wishes or steals their children. How amusing."
They continue this sort of banter, and then Tirorvan hurries to catch up with another Sidhe to have a conference. Fox is left alone again, and of course his thoughts zip right back to Scully.
_Why didn't you move, Mulder? Huh? You could have had her out of there. You could have split that demon five ways to Sunday. What was wrong with you, Mulder? She's been there enough times for you, hasn't she?_
He remembers, for some reason, Pusher. He remembers pulling futilely at the trigger when it was put to his head, hoping that the bullet would go into his brain so that he wouldn't have to point that deadly muzzle at Scully. He remembers the tears in her eyes and damns himself again and again, Mulder-style, for not breaking the control of his own fear.
_Why didn't you move, Mulder?_ taunts that demon thought. _She's the only thing you have that's worthwhile in that charming basement life of yours. She is your balance. And when she needed you to be there, you weren't. You weren't there. How does that sound to you? You great big FBI agent, you. Can't even pull a gun, can't even move a step toward saving the one thing that makes your sorry life valuable._
"Shut up," he says aloud, savagely. "Shut up." He wants to cry, he wants to sit down and wail for all his life is worth. _She is probably already dead._ And thus he spends the rest of the afternoon, trailing behind the Sidhe, alternating in thoughts of guilt and fear of death. But not his own death -- for if Scully is already dead, there will be nothing to lean himself on anymore.
And he will fall.
They camp for the night in a meadow much like all the other meadows they have tramped through for the day. Fox is very glad to sit down; he hasn't walked so much in ages. The Sidhe pay little or no attention to him, conversing among themselves in another language. Then one nods and steps out into the darkness, pacing back and forth. Tirorvan comes and sits next to Fox.
"Tomorrow I will explain to you what must be done. For now, you need to sleep and not have any dreams."
Fox grins wryly. "I don't think I can help it, Tirorvan. They come whether we humans want them to or not."
Tirorvan smiles back and passes his small-fingered hand over Fox' eyes. "Tonight you will not dream."
And he is not particularly surprised to find that he doesn't.
She sits in a carved wooden chair by his side, and cannot look away from him. He has given her new clothes, for which she is absurdly grateful. They are lightweight, and she shivers a bit in the growing Faerie dusk. Her master Miorunach notices her shiverings and smiles.
"Mortals. They cannot stop being susceptible."
He hauls her up to his lap and she curls up into him, feeling unutterably lucky.
"Do you love me?" she whispers plaintively. "You love me, don't you."
He smiles down at her indulgently. Blood slicks his teeth. She wants to lick it off. "Of course I love you, pet. Do I not give you everything you want?" She sighs up at him. "Yes. Yes, you do." He draws her up to him, and kisses her, not for the first time. It is a painful assault, and she loves it. Some of the blood on his teeth is hers, and she has bruises on her body from his touch. But she cannot get enough. He is her master, and she would do anything for him. Anything.
He finishes kissing her and says, "Now, sweetling, there are some things I want you to do for me tomorrow night. Will you do them?"
She grins fiercely up at him, a Doberman's smile of love. "Of course I will."
He begins to whisper, his gaze firmly fixed on her. By the time he finishes, she is smiling.
The Sidhe allow Fox to sleep until late morning. When he demands to know why, the Sidhe who had woken him only smiles at him kindly and answers in heavily accented English, "What would you have done, then? Sat around or been in our way, I suppose. You couldn't have helped us, and you need the rest. So what are you howling about?"
The Seelie Sidhe spend the afternoon preparing for Samhain. Tirorvan takes it upon himself to explain some things to Fox.
"We Seelie, you see, don't consider the humans a scourge. We're kind of your biological conservationists -- we want to coexist with all living things. We sometimes live very peacefully in your world. Ireland was one place where we could live in harmony with the people. But eventually, the Unseelie would come over and upset the humans and we would have to move."
"But why Earth?" interrupts Fox. "Why not some other world?"
"I honestly don't know," replies the Sidhe. "We have always been coming there. And I don't know what our ancestors were thinking when they chose Earth. Perhaps our scholars would know differently, but I am really only a soldier."
"Wait a minute! I thought you Sidhe lived forever."
"No, but in peacetime we live a very long time. It must seem like forever to you humans. I will eventually grow old and die, but you will never see it. Unless I am killed tonight, in battle." The chill in his normally cheerful voice brings a small shiver up and down Fox' back. _I could die today._
"So why are the Seelie hunting you specifically?" he asks in an effort to hold back the chills. Tirorvan smiles, a trifle sadly. "Ah, Fox, it has been so long since I told this story to someone who will help us. We are the last of a clan whose leader resisted the Unseelie attempt to take over some land that we had held. It was a better way to get to the humans, you see, and Miorunach was fair rabid trying to get it. He was only a lord, then, but he became King as a result of the fighting. Blaise held Mirrowdowns for so long, fighting day and night even when they sent wights past the guards to kill his wife and son. They killed my lady, you see, but not the son. I took him away before they could have him. And six days after he had been spirited away, the whole Court went hunting a giant, and when they caught it they dragged it in chains to Blaise's door and let it go. How they laughed that day --Miorunach took his cousins and the Court hawking through the castle, and they let the hawks feast on my lord's eyes while he was in chains."
Tirorvan's voice breaks in grief, and Fox is caught up by the story. "What happened then?"
"That was the day that Mirrowdowns fell, and gentle was the sound of its passing. We gathered the ones that were left and we fled into the lands of the humans for safety. So much iron, you see, often will dissuade Miorunach from sending the Unseelie to those lands. It has been fifty years since the fall of Mirrowdowns and we have been in the human lands ever since. Miorunach has been occupied in taking over the court of the Unseelie and he has actually left us alone for quite some time."
"Well, why in Heaven's name is he hunting you down _now_?" asks Fox. He is perplexed. Fifty years is an awfully long time to hold a grudge. But if these Sidhe live as long as Tirorvan says, he can begin to imagine fifty years as a short time. Only begin, though; his imagination soon fails him. He eyes Tirorvan again.
"It's the young lord, you see. He's grown up now. We had thought to disguise our taking of him until he had become older, but Miorunach seems to have gotten word of his being among us. He sent bogans for us -- that is why I needed to be loud, to warn my friends and my lord of the coming peril. Now, by Unseelie law, we are traitors to the Crown and we will be destroyed at any cost. And so we must prevail. Do you see?" he asks, searching Fox's face. "If we lose, we only lose our lives. But Mirrowdowns is very close to the human world. The Unseelie Court could start sending bogans through to clear the way. Not just one, but several thousand, all iron-resistant. They can be taught not to fear iron, though it takes a long time. That is probably why Miorunach hasn't started in on you humans already." Fox imagines thousands of those silver beings, all converging on FBI headquarters, and has to suppress a smirk. This is really quite serious.
Tirorvan continues, "We must prevail with the Wild Hunt or Miorunach may conceivably start taking the Earth, piece by piece. And he doesn't coexist. It's him or you. And you will be the losers."
Fox gestures. "Why can't he just be content with this? It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I'm sure he could be happy here."
"No, he is not like that. He hates humans, you see, and he wants to have their lands just so they won't. The Unseelie don't think like you, Fox. They are like greedy human children, and they don't want to share. Luckily, most of the Seelie understand our plight and are willing to fight.
Around Samhain, almost everyone is looking for a fight. We -- and you -- are lucky that they realize how important saving Earth as a refuge is. Usually they won't band together for a matter of hours, let alone days. But Blaise has a little power, enough to bring us together for Samhain. We will fight the army, and you will fight Miorunach with your knowledge of iron."
Fox ponders upon that for a few moments, and then nods. "Two questions, then. Who is the new young lord? Have I seen him?"
"Yes," says Tirorvan. "He knocked you over when you were paralyzed by the bogan. His name is Blaise, like his father." Fox remembers the Sidhe, how Fox had thought he looked like Tirorvan. He thinks, _I will have to have another talk with that young one._
"And the other question?"
"What do I have to do?"
Tirorvan's face breaks into a grin. "Ah, now there is a good question." They begin to speak, quietly, two dangerous creatures in their own right, plotting the downfall of something much more powerful than they are.
So passes the afternoon.
It is evening, and the moon climbs the sky though it is still light. She watches it from atop the stone slab. Her red hair is flung out behind her, and her face is turned up to the light in the sky. She wears a face of ecstasy that even her lovers will never see. She is not cold anymore, and not hungry, though she has had nothing to eat in two days. This will be the night, then, that she can prove her love to the being that has commanded her existence. She is to give herself to the hunter. And kill anyone who gets in the way.
Something she is fully prepared to do. She is a deadly weapon in her own right.
It is evening, and the moon climbs the sky though it is still light. He watches it from atop a hill. His dark hair stands up in spikes and his face is still, looking down the hill to where a hundred watch-fires burn. He is cold, and hungry, though he has eaten some bread and wrapped himself in a spare Sidhe cloak. This will be the night, then, that he will prove himself or die. Prove himself or die. _That has a mighty harsh ring to it, doesn't it?_ He has decided, though. He let Scully be taken, and he will get her back, or die trying. It is as simple as that.
He will do one thing or the other. He is a deadly weapon in his own right.
"It will be iron, of course," Tirorvan had said. "It may sound like every fairy tale you ever heard has come to life, but that really is the best way to kill any Sidhe. We have brought a knife with us that is pure iron, and you are the only one who can carry it comfortably. Thus, it must be you who gives the killing stroke. Do you understand? No matter what happens around you, Fox. No matter what you see and who you may think will help you. Dana will only be free from the glamour when the sorcerer Miorunach is dead. And once he is dead, the Unseelie will disperse and begin the process of deciding who will succeed to the throne of the Court."
"What is a glamour?" Fox had asked, interested in spite of himself.
"A spell that can hold humans bound."
"Like the spell that the bogan cast on us?"
"No, that was not a spell. The bogan only reflected your fears back to you and caught you with them. A glamour is much more serious -- it keeps a human prisoner of the Sidhe as long as the spell lasts. And usually, they last a lifetime. So, you see, Dana will not be happy to see you, and will not do what you say. You must understand this. She will only obey Miorunach, for he is the one who holds the glamour. By killing him, the glamour ceases, and she will fight for you again. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Fox had muttered. Now, looking down from the hill, he wondered. _Can it be that strong?_ Could it be strong enough that she would not answer the desperate sound of his voice? That idea pleases him not at all, and he scowls.
Earlier that evening they had given him the knife. It had been kept in a thick wooden box with those clumsy runes carved in it. Though the hornless, goatfooted, redhaired Sidhe who had fetched the box had made no sound of complaint, Fox had seen the welts that had been raised on her hands, just by being in such proximity. _At great cost,_ Tirorvan had said. For such a small, sharp thing. It was in his belt, now. They had made a scabbard for it of leather, but he had been the one to lift it out of the box. It was honed to a keen, sharp edge, and looked a lot like those replica daggers that Fox had seen in D.C. weapons stores. But he had known by the blistered hands of the patient Sidhe that if Tirorvan wasn't lying the dagger was pure iron and was causing him great pain. A heavy and not particularly effective weapon -- except in this case. Even these city-bred Sidhe hadn't liked to come near it.
Fox absently rubs his hand up and down the scabbard, warming his palm with the friction. He must kill at close range. The Sidhe have told him again and again that they will protect him, but he cannot believe them. He must fight on his own, and he must kill something that has existed for thousands of years before he was born, if you could believe Tirorvan. He has never killed a man close up, though he is a crack marksman and has shot enough men in his time. _This killing stuff must be easy, though,_ he muses, _six or seven thousand teenage New Yorkers can't be wrong._ He is not really amused by his own thoughts.
More and more Sidhe had gathered to Blaise's banner that afternoon, as if all the Sidhe in Faerie knew what was going on and had to come see. Most of them passed Fox without a second look, though many others gawked and pointed. Blaise had quickly and efficiently sorted them out -- Fox admired his generalcy, even though by Sidhe standards Blaise was just a boy. And the Sidhe had gone, and stood in line, and been good soldiers, just as if they were not about to die over a piece of land and honor.
Blaise had come smiling up to Fox, saying in a gentle voice, throwing a long arm around him, "Look who we have to protect you." And, leading Fox out where the troops could see him, "Look what we have to protect!" Standing on the hill, Fox knows that he is the weapon. He wonders if they have a couple more humans with iron knives, standing by. Spares. He decides that they probably do. Blaise strikes him as that kind of general. The Sidhe take advantage of him simply because he is desperate. He strains his eyes in the darkness, wondering where Scully is. What she is doing, what she is thinking.
_Will she recognize me from the desperate sound of my voice?_
Now, he is not so sure.
And night falls.
It really does fall -- here in Faerie, night comes like an anvil, pounding into the earth like a dagger to the ribs. In one moment, a perfectly light sky sheds its luminescence like a velvet dress. Fox cannot recall seeing the sun set, yet it obviously has. He stands still, frightened now that the time has come. Before, all he could think of was Scully. War has become concrete and he fears for his own life. _Ours is not to question why,_ he thinks, and then stops thinking as best he can. This is certainly no time for thinking. If one goes about thinking too much about what one will be doing, one invariably ends up talking oneself out of things. Fox has discovered that sometimes, you could just think too much.
Tirorvan tugs at his arm, an irritating habit, but the Sidhe's size excludes most everything else but biting Fox' knees. Fox looks down and Tirorvan points to the moon.
"The Lady is climbing, and the Wild Hunt stirs. Soon Herne will run with her, wherever he is sent. Miorunach will try and tell him to go into the human lands, but if Blaise can get there first, then he will command Herne to go into the wildlands beyond Faerie. You must silence Miorunach before he can give the command, do you understand? Herne will not be patient long and he will not listen to you, so don't try anything. If we cannot get there in time, he will take Dana Scully, for she will be a willing sacrifice, and his Hunt will feast on humans. Your life will possibly be forfeit if we cannot protect you. Try to find Miorunach's throat, that would be best, then he cannot speak. While he is being silenced, Blaise will step in and invoke the High Magic to command Herne. You must not let Miorunach speak the command! It is imperative."
"I understand," says Fox. "I won't let it happen, if it is within my power at all. The King of the Unseelie Court will be silenced for his crimes." His words sound oddly formal and echo in his ears. It is a death sentence that must be carried out.
Down the hill a little, Fox can see Blaise, his light hair whipping in the night breeze, motioning the Seelie troops into place. Soon, they are ready and Blaise leads them towards the crest of the hill and then down the other side. As they pass Fox, most of them give him odd salutes, smiling in approval at the tousled-haired human with the sober face. Fox nods his head to some of them. At Blaise's signal, he and his Sidhe companion slide into place and the well-oiled machine of war is on its way. The Sidhe are marching, and the moon rises.
As they get closer, shouts go up, presumably from the sentries. Ten of the Sidhe break off sharply, and Tirorvan, Blaise, and Fox follow them, silently, leaving Blaise's second to lead the main body of the army. They circle quietly around the camp and then two of the vanguard soldiers motion them to stillness. They glide into the shadows -- there is no noise, and they are back. It has been successful, then -- the guards are dead. The soldiers lead the way into the Unseelie camp. The camp has disintegrated into shouts and chaos, now. Apparently, most of the Unseelie hadn't known that the army was coming, though Miorunach must have realized it. They are scrambling into armor, and running in the general direction of the Seelie army. Most of them pass the small party right by, and those who do not are dispatched efficiently by the Sidhe.
Fox can now see the difference between Seelie and Unseelie Sidhe. The Seelie are short and rather ugly, and have many animal attributes, such as horns and fur or fangs or owl's eyes or somesuch. The Unseelie are exactly how elves have been pictured in contemporary fantasy -- long, thin, and beautiful, though cold. Fox shivers, thinking that all the fantasy writers in the world have been picturing and idealizing creatures that would love to have them dead and dismembered -- a sobering thought, but again, he must stop thinking and simply follow Tirorvan. Which he does, with minimal success at being quiet. He seems to be stumblefooted.
They come upon the clearing suddenly. It lies in the middle of the camp -- cleared land surrounds a large stone almost like a dais, upon which sits -- Scully. In some sort of diaphanous thing, looking around in a frowning sort of petulance. She cannot understand why everyone isn't looking at her.
Isn't she supposed to give herself to Herne in a moment of glory? Why was everyone running around bleating like half- dead goats? Quite upset, she frowns sulkily.
Fox is appalled, shocked, and so happy to see her alive that he almost bursts. "Scully!" he shouts, and then ventures, "Dana!" And he sees what else has arrived on the dais and wishes fervently that he had kept quiet. But even Tirorvan's sigh of disappointment cannot keep him down for long. She is alive! Alive! Even if she does not look up at the sound at her name, but continues staring at the stone, a frown on her mobile face. The tall Unseelie Sidhe comes up behind her, and _then_ she looks up, with a sycophantic expression.
"Where is Herne, Master?" she asks, whining a little. Mulder can do nothing but stare.
"He is coming, pretty pet." This being must be Miorunach.
He is easily six and a half feet tall, with long plaited white hair and an unlined face. His face is streaked with blood and it is caked under his white fingernails. His eyes are so light they are almost clear, and seem to glow with a bluish radiance. He strokes Dana's hair like a pet cat. Fox hears a growl resounding around in his head, only dimly aware that it has escaped. Miorunach raises his head and sees the party, his eyes fixing on Blaise.
Fox suddenly feels his legs kicked out from under him. He falls, heavily, and Tirorvan is suddenly beside him on the ground. Angry, he starts to protest, but Tirorvan cuts him off.
"Now! Go and imitate your namesake. You can stop this."
Fox nods as well as he can and starts wriggling commando- style towards the back of the dais. He hears most of the following conversation as periphery. He has stopped thinking.
On the stone, time has seemed to stop. She is angry that Herne has not come and there are these usurpers here ready to challenge her master. She tugs at her master's leg, and he absently backhands her halfway across the stone. "Quiet, pet. Your master is having a conversation and doesn't want to be bothered." There is no particular malice in his tone. She lies flat on the stone, unbreathing, her chest turned to iron.
It probably saves her life, even though her later actions don't really warrant it.
Miorunach smiles down upon the company. "Greetings, boy pretender. What do you here, among your sworn enemies?" The words are oddly formal, as is Blaise's reply. The Sidhe are a traditional people, if nothing else.
"I have to come to avenge my father and take back my lands, Miorunach." The deliberate omission of title does not change the Unseelie's face a whit, though his eyes grow colder.
"You come ill-prepared. You see, I have an army."
"Listen," says Blaise. The sounds of fighting can be heard clearly in the silence, and eddies of fighting Sidhe swirl past the stone. The bloodlust of Samhain is upon them, and they scream as they fight, scream as they bleed and die. Miorunach smiles in appreciation.
"That does not change things," he says. "It is Samhain, and the Hunt will be upon us. Where is your little human chattel? Creeping up behind me, no doubt." He whirls in exaggerated fright and then laughs. "Humans mean nothing, and he is just an extra sacrifice, Seelie. When I command Herne, nothing will stop us from taking your scrawny boy- head and putting it up on my gates where it belongs."
"Then we will have to stop you from commanding him, won't we?" says Blaise and vaults lightly onto the wedge of stone. His company follow. Miorunach laughs cruelly. "It is too late. He comes. You have no sacrifice, and he comes!"
In the distance, the fighting stops, and all Sidhe look up into the sky where a hunting horn blares, shaking Faerie. A figure is riding through the sky, trailed by a pack of animals that look like hounds, but aren't. The figure rides a horse, and as it comes nearer, the viewers can see it clearly. It is Herne's man-face, neither kind nor cruel, is surmounted by huge horns. She looks up, still spreadeagled in a corner, sees the face of justice towering over her, and wonders for a brief flash whether she can get away. Then love overwhelms her again, and she smiles up at the face of destiny.
Fox, crawling up over the back of the rock with the knife clenched between his teeth, does not see the face at all. His cloak has half-torn from him, and his fingers are scraped almost raw. His blistered chest is agony. His face is screwed up tightly in concentration, and he moves patiently, for one slight wrong movement might raise Miorunach's interest level.
The air stills, except for the baying of animals who are not hounds, milling in the air behind the Hunter. Said Hunter stretches his hand out towards Miorunach and Blaise. Long claws glimmer in the moonlight.
"Is there one of you who has brought me a sacrifice? I will not be commanded by simple force of will. There must be one freely given to sway my Hunt. It is the High Magic."
Miorunach opens his mouth to speak, and everything happens very quickly after that. Fox, having reached his optimum position, stands up. Suddenly the knife is snatched from between his teeth, almost slicing his mouth open. He stands, almost stock still, watching Miorunach wheel in slow motion, and watching the woman who now holds the knife. He had forgotten her.
Forgotten! Because he had wanted to believe that she would not hurt him. And now he will pay for that.
Her voice is a wail. "You will not kill my master! I will have my destiny!" A fey light glints from the iron knife as she brings it down towards Fox's chest. Suddenly, Tirorvan is in front of him and takes the knife in his shoulder, which is about the height of Fox's breastbone. Tirorvan moans, animallike, and clutches at the knife in his shoulder, raising welts on his hand. A smell of sizzled flesh comes from his shoulder.
Miorunach smiles slightly. "Good, my little pet. You're a regular watchdog, aren't you, dear? And you handle iron so well. What a foolish mortal he was to think that he could hurt me with you around." He makes a peremptory gesture, and a bogan vaults out of the night and onto the stone. Miorunach instructs him to guard Fox and Tirorvan, and paying no more mind to either the human or the Sidhe, he turns back towards Herne.
Tirorvan looks at Fox, an anguished grimace stretching his features. "Please, Fox. Take out the blade. It must be used on Miorunach before the bargain is struck. Please, Fox."
Fox is struck to stone with the weight of his failure. He had not paid enough attention to Scully. He had been almost sure that she would at least been confused by his presence, but she had not even recognized him.
Tirorvan's eyes narrow to slits in pain. "Fox! You make my sacrifice vain! Get. This. Iron. Out. Of. Me. And. Where. It. Belongs." He draws every word out, holding Fox's eyes like a fishhook. Fox nods, and pulls the knife easily from Tirorvan's flesh. As he begins to stand, Tirorvan says "Fox" again. Fox looks down at him.
"You are a credit to your namesake. Fly true."
"Fly true," echoes Fox. It is a farewell of sorts. When he stands again, Miorunach is speaking with Herne, and his voice comes through clearly.
". . . We will speak in the human tongue, for my pet to understand exactly what is to happen to her. You will have her, will you not, and then the Hunt will take her for sacrifice? Then you will go into the human's world and Hunt it clean? All the humans will be destroyed? Yes? That is the bargain? That is the High Magic?" His voice is eager. Fox realizes that it will be very hard to get to Miorunach now; he recognizes the stance that Miorunach has adopted. The Sidhe is ready to whirl around at any minute; he is watching movement from the corner of his eye. For one small moment of desperation Fox wonders how he ever thought that he could kill this creature.
Herne replies to the King in a deep, sonorous voice. "Yes, that is acceptable for a Samhain Hunt. Is your pet willing?" Miorunach turns halfway to Dana Scully. "Are you willing, pretty thing?"
In answer she drops her gown to the stone. She is wearing several ankle-rings and nothing else. Fox is paralyzed, he cannot think rationally, though a thousand Sidhe die beside him. This cannot be -- it is unthinkable, these actions that Scully is performing. In his mind, he jumps and slashes at this creature who makes his best friend defile herself this way. His body does not move, though his anger pounds his blood to ash. He does not move, and the moment ticks swiftly by.
Suddenly his eidetic memory saves him. His mind flashes back to Oxford and something he hasn't thought about for years, something he has tried very very hard to forget. The time when he had been interested in the SCA and he and one of his flatmates had fought for Phoebe's honor, for fun of course. She had given him her token, a flat purple ribbon around his wrist, and had kissed him deeply while the whole field looked on, grinning. Then he had gone out and been beaten soundly. That was the last time he ever fought tournament-style in the SCA, but he had done some target archery and Mark, the juggler, had taught him how to swallow fire and to throw a knife.
He remembers it now, as clearly as ever, and though his conscious mind is paralyzed by Scully's white skin, his body remembers as well as if he were in the SCA house and flicking homemade daggers at a bull's-eye for hours at a time. _You hold it like so,_ he remembers, and weighs the haft in his hand. It is not really well-balanced, but he knows he can do it, for Mark's daggers had been off-balance on purpose. _This is how you learn, Mulder. It's in your wrist. Up, and back and forward. Don't take your eyes off the target._
Time slows down. Herne is reaching for Dana, and she has held out a slim white wrist. He can still only see her back, but then his focus shifts to Miorunach and stays there. Up, and he focuses tightly on the slim white throat behind the braid of white hair. Back, and he hears Herne saying something in a deep voice, and Blaise yelling, "Wait, Herne. Wait." And forward, and his whole soul seems to go with the throw.
The slim silver blade streaks like a shooting star towards its target. The bogan's lightning-quick reflexes would have saved the King's life, but it reacts towards the wrong place, for it is sure that Fox would aim for Miorunach's back.
Three or four things happen when the dagger hits. Miorunach slumps to the ground, black blood welling from his throat. Scully lets out a yell of panic and tries to tear her grip from Herne's. And Fox sees a very unsteady Tirorvan make a run past the collapsed King of the Unseelie Sidhe to fall on his knees in front of the hunter.
Blaise makes a noise of denial, stepping forward to try and stop what has already started. Tirorvan is already speaking. Blood streams from his shoulder, and his voice is unsteady and hoarse.
"This humble Sidhe willingly submits to sacrifice and asks only that the Hunter goes where his lord, Blaise, commands him to go. This humble sacrifice surrenders to Herne the Hunter without any reservations and gives Herne his soul to aid the cause of his sworn liege, Blaise. Will the Hunter accept this sacrifice in lieu of the false one given by the King of the Unseelie Sidhe? Will the Hunter accept the bonds of the High Magic?"
Herne stretches out his hand. "The Hunter accepts. This is the High Magic."
And the animals who are not hounds bay and howl in the night. Tirorvan has but a glance toward his lord and perhaps a sob of relief before they are on him. And the night echoes.
Afterwards, Blaise seems older and more tired. Nothing is left of Tirorvan but a belt buckle, and the animals who are not hounds are milling and wailing with bloodlust. Herne looks to Blaise. "The Hunter has accepted the sacrifice. He will go where he is commanded. Does the young Sidhe lord wish there to be a scourge of the human lands?"
"No," says Blaise as wearily as if he had done all the fighting himself. "No. I command you out into the Wildlands, where you would have gone anyway had not the Unseelie Lord insisted you come here. There are things there that will keep your interest, Lord of the Hunt." He stands tall and proud, graceful like a cat on a railing. There is grief in his face.
"As the lord commands." Herne wheels his horse and the Wild Hunt trails into the sky. The fighting has stopped, at least between Seelie and Unseelie. Everywhere, tall spare figures are forming into ranks under their commanding lords and the fight for the succession begins. The mobile Sidhe gather under the rock to hear Blaise speak, with traditional eloquence, about the great battle that had just been fought, and Tirorvan's great sacrifice.
_Yada, yada,_ thinks Fox. His strength has mostly been used up, and he really only wants one thing. He stumbles over to where Dana Scully, with her diaphanous gown pulled back around her, is sobbing fit to break his heart.
"Mulder," she says, looking up at him. Her eyes tear at him. "I had no control. I lost c-c-c-" and she cannot continue.
He understands, though. He wraps his torn cloak around her and holds her towards him, away from the chill of the rock and the Faerie night. Holds her, and does not say anything for a long time, for whatever he could say would be no consolation. He cannot help her, but longs to comfort her. Suddenly he remembers something else, a bit of a song he had heard a while ago that had stuck with him, and he begins to sing to her, softly, rocking her as if she were his daughter and afraid of crocodiles under the bed.
"Sunday morning Yellow sky The sun is floating diamond high Hours passing A baby cries In the arms of someone you imagine
Close your eyes This is your lullaby
Close your eyes This is your lullaby"
His voice is nothing stunning, but the song lulls her somewhat. She stops crying after awhile and looks up at him, sniffling. She looks a little angry now. "Mulder," she says again, and it clicks back into place -- he is Mulder now. "Mulder, I didn't even know my own name! I was ready to kill you to get the approval of that -- that - -" and she gestures at Miorunach's body, still slumped on the cold rock. Her face twists into a semblance of disdain.
"Doesn't matter. Don't worry," he says, "I would have done the same to you. It's called a glamour, Scully. It doesn't leave you a choice." Then he gives her a patented Mulder Leer and says, "Bezidez, I like fiolent weemun." "Did you see -- anything?" she asks, coloring to the roots of her copper hair.
"No," he lies gallantly, "There was a bogan in front of me and he was blocking my view, dammit!"
"How rude," she says drily. And begins to laugh. It is a clear, pure sound that rings out across Faerie, and Mulder cannot help it. He begins to laugh as well. Blaise asks to speak to Mulder alone, and he assents. The new general and Lord of Mirrowdowns thanks Mulder for his help.
"If you need a place in Faerie, just call, for there is always a home for you in the Mirrowdowns."
Mulder looks at him, this being who is no larger than him, but who will live much longer. "Can I bring Scully with me?"
Blaise has a glint in his eye. "Of course -- if she behaves herself." Then he looks at Mulder. "I will send you back tonight. We will send you by spell, and none of us will go with you. But rest assured that we will watch, and if you need help, we will come." Mulder thanks him and goes back to Scully. She makes a place for him. And they fall asleep there, on the rock, after Mulder borrows another cloak from Blaise. And when they wake up, they are on benches in the park underneath the school in Wolcott, Connecticut. It is morning, and mist is rising from the grass of the baseball field. There are no signs of any outlandish creatures running around. No Sidhe or anything similar -- not even children or dog- walkers. The park is as silent as the grave. Scully sits up, alarmed, and jabs Mulder in the ribs.
"Mulder! Wake up!"
She is frightened that he will not wake, even though she has felt the comforting lull of his breathing. But he knuckles his eyes and stares at her. "What is the problem, Scully?"
"Mulder! Did we get knocked out or something? Why are we here?"
He grins at her. "We got abducted into Faerie, Scully."
She wants to deny it, and does. "We did no such thing, Mulder. Fairies don't exist."
He picks up an edge of the cloak that she is wrapped in and tugs it a little. She is forced to look down then, to actually see what she is wearing. A soiled blue cloak, and underneath it -- something she would be arrested for wearing in public.
"What will we tell the Bureau, Mulder? What will we tell Ken Farnsworth?"
He shrugs elaborately, still grinning. It has been heaven to hold Scully for one night, though he is just getting the circulation back into his arms. "We'll tell them that the case has been solved. We're the FBI, Scully, we don't have to tell them anything. They'll believe better that way. Conspiracy, and all of that stuff."
"I've lost the car keys. And my badge. We're going to have to walk."
"Scully," and he offers her his arm, "I'd consider it a pleasure to walk into town with you." And as they walk down Blansfield Lane, he in a tattered shirt and muddy jeans and she in a cloak, they begin to laugh again. The sound carries to the occupants of the adjacent houses.
"What could those two ragamuffins possibly have to laugh about?" mutter the neighbors, wondering if they should call the police.
But in the end, they don't. The laughter is too pure -- it peals clearly, like it belongs in another world. And in it, the listeners hear their dreams.
--The End-- Completed July 12, 1996
--Poetry Disclaimer-- The title and beginning quote (as well as the song at the end) is from a song by the band October Project, called "Sunday Morning Yellow Sky," lyrics by Julie Flanders and Emil Adler, used without permission.
The poem by e.e. cummings is entitled "All in green went my love riding," and can be found in his poetry collection, "Tulips and Chimneys," also used without permission. The poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is called "Kubla Khan," and can be found in any reasonably good collection of English poetry. Aside: Miorunach means "malice" in Gaelic (:)) and should be spelt with the Gaelic "i" although I don't know if it came through in the transcription.
--Location Disclaimer--Any persons from Wolcott will recognize some street names and perhaps even the restaurant, but I have taken a few liberties with the town which I hope they will forgive me for.